The first of the SEC’s fall quarterback competition dominoes has fallen. Florida finally announced what most of us expected, by naming Luke Del Rio, son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack, their starting quarterback for the opener against UMass on September 3rd.
Florida announces QB Luke Del Rio will be the starter in the season-opener vs. UMass.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) August 18, 2016
McElwain when commenting on why he named Del Rio the starter:
"Luke is going to work as the starter the rest of camp and start in the season opener barring any unforeseen development. "Our other quarterbacks remain in the plans and are ready to move forward and help the Gators any way they can."
Del Rio was able to beat out Purdue transfer Austin Appleby, along with true freshmen Kyle Trask and Felipe Franks—who weren’t figured in to be serious threats to lead the Gators out against the Minutemen.
Del Rio, bounced around from Alabama to Oregon State before landing in Gainesville in 2015. While sitting out the 2015 season, Del Rio impressed on the scout team earning praise from the coaching staff, but it looked like his hard work would go to waste as he watched the Gators get off to a surprise 7-0 start led by a surging Will Grier. Florida’s fortunes, and offense, turned in the wrong direction when Grier was popped with a 1-year NCAA PED suspension. Treon Harris took over, from then on, and the Gators were pushed to the brink by lesser foes in Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic before being embarrassed by rival Florida State and Michigan to close the season.
Heading into spring practice, the hope for McElwain and his staff was to find a quarterback who, at the very least, could manage the Florida offense enough to compete at a similar level to the one Grier ran prior to his suspension. Del Rio looked to have that potential after a sterling 10 for 11, 176 yard and two touchdown passing performance in the spring game. Spring games aren’t anything to put too much stock in, but when you’re a fan base that has been tormented by poor quarterback play since the departure of Tim Tebow it’s easy to get caught up in any positive hype.
Del Rio may have won the job, but expectations at Florida haven’t lowered. The Gators have talked for much of the offseason about being disrespected based on their lackluster finish with Harris under-center. No one questions Del Rio’s understanding of the offense and ability to manage the game. What we will soon learn, is if he possess the ability to push the ball down the field vertically to Antonio Callaway and whether he has enough playmaking ability to keep the Gators atop of the East division.